Desert architect Albert Frey celebrated at Palm Springs Art Museum

In recognition of the iconic desert architect Albert Frey, Palm Springs Art Museum presents the most comprehensive exhibition and publication on his life and work to date. The exhibition, “Albert Frey: Inventive Modernist,” opens January 13, 2024, at the museum’s Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, and runs through June 3, 2024. It will include drawings, plans, images, and models—many from Frey’s personal archives which he bequeathed to the museum.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Frey (1903-1998), had early career successes in Paris and New York before moving to Palm Springs where he realized most of his life work. His unique style of Desert Modernism cemented his legacy as one of the most influential architects, not only in the Coachella Valley, but also in the United States and the world.

His personal residence, Frey House II, sits on the mountain side above Palm Springs Art Museum; it was also gifted to the institution by Frey and is part of the museum’s permanent collection.

The large-scale retrospective, curated and designed by Brad Dunning, will present rare and many previously unexhibited architectural models, drawings, films, photographs, and furniture.

“One building by Frey in some other town would be cause for celebration,” Dunning said. “Palm Springs is so full of them, it may not completely appreciate the bounty. With this exhibition, I strive to show not only the justifiably well-known projects, but countless other works that Frey was able to inject with his unique design aesthetic, clever and artful compositions, and experimentation with new materials.”

The exhibition coincides with the opening of the permanent installation of Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher’s Aluminaire House™ on museum grounds. One of the first examples of European-inspired Modern design in America, Aluminaire was conceived in 1931 as an experiment to explore new industrial materials in creating low-cost housing. It is now considered a masterpiece of modernist design. The public will be able to view the structure starting in early February. 

“Albert Frey pursued a lifelong quest for the regality of order and for the harmony of the man-made with the natural,” Dunning added.

The museum is presenting several activities in conjunction with the exhibition. On Saturday, January 27, 2024 the museum’s biggest annual fundraiser Art Party will honor Frey’s legacy. During Modernism Week, the museum will feature Albert Frey: A SYMPOSIUM on Saturday, February 24, 2024 in the Annenberg Theater. The event will feature Paul Goldberger, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic, who will provide the keynote address, with presentations by Dunning; Barbara Lamprecht, architectural historian; and Joseph Rosa, architect and Frey biographer.

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